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Islamic Culture ( 30 Nov 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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The Idea of Islamic Literature Does Not Find Support Even Among Islamic Writers

By S. Arshad, New Age Islam

30 November 2021

Islamic Literature, Like the Communist Literature Is Unacceptable To the Literary World

Main Points:

1.    Literature is secular in nature.

2.    Literature deals with the iissues of entire humanity.

3.    Literature should not be communalized.


Since literature is a mirror of life and society, modern human society has tried to use literature to fulfil its social, political and religious goals. In every age or in every society the dominant political stream or group has tried to use literature to spread its political ideology. For example, communist states tried to communize literature and such literature was widely created, published and distributed. The progressive movement that was based on communism was made popular by Indian writers including Urdu writers during the thirties till the sixties. Other ideological groups also tried to use literature for the spread of their ideology.


Also Read:  Lack of Social and Literary Commitment in Contemporary Urdu Literature


On this line, the movement for Islamic literature (Islami Adab was also started in Pakistan after the independence of India.  Renowned critic Mohammad Hasan Askari was the most vocal exponent of Islamic literature in Pakistan. He wanted to shape the concept of Islami Adab. But it did not go too far as it was promoted as an opponent of the progressive movement that was based on communism.

However, the idea of Islamic literature did not die completely. Since literature consists of poetry and fiction (stories, novels etc), it was debated if fiction is permitted by Islam and if so, what kind of fiction can be permitted. The other problem was that the common belief among Muslims was that poetry is condemned by Islam, though, in reality, the Quran only discourages purposeless and negative poetry that promotes un-Islamic practices and beliefs.

From the verses of the Quran and from hadiths, it becomes clear that Islam is not against literature but that Islam has some guiding principles for literature. Urdu critics and ideologues have tried to define Islamic literature (Islami Adab) according to their own understanding. Pakistani critic Saleem Ahmad writes:

 “Islamic literature means the literature that expresses the Islamic way of thinking about God, Universe and Man.” .Saleem Ahmad

In his book “Islami Afsanawi Adab”, Dr Mohammad Tariq Aiyubi Nadwi writes:

“Islamic literature is the piece of literature which apart from having a purpose should be a product of the author’s intuition which is derived from his life and Islamic concepts of the universe in the light of the Quran and Hadith.”

According to Dr Tariq Aiyubi, the idea of Islami Adab (Islamic literature) was first presented by Syed Qutb of Egypt and later by Indian Islamic scholar Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi.

In Islam, the first specimens of Islamic literature can be found in the Qasas of the Quran which are told to drive home the Quranic messages of the unity of God, moral and ethical values, scientific temperament and tolerance, self-restraint and endurance. But since the Qasas were not fiction and were based on real incidents, fiction does not find support in the Quran.

The specimens of Islamic poetry are found in the Naat (Poems of praise of the Prophet pbuh) and the poems of the companions of the prophet pbuh that were composed on Islamic conquests and on personal experiences of the Muslims. For example, Hadhrat Bilal expressed his personal feelings after migration to Madina in poetry. The prophet pbuh and his companions would recite couplets during the wars. In Urdu, Allama Iqbal’s poetry can be categorized as the specimens of Islamic poetry. Poetry of Altaf Hussain Hali is largely part of Islamic literature because he had the same idea of literature that later Iqbal adopted.

Since fiction does not have the support of the Quran and hadith, Arab writers did not take interest in fiction for centuries and many Islamic critics do not still encourage fiction but there are some modern Arab critics who consider fiction a powerful medium for propagating Islamic ideas and messages. Therefore, according to Mohammad Sabagh:

“If the missionary of the religion (Dayi) is capable of bringing this powerful medium (fiction) under the confines of Islam, fiction will become a noble medium.” (Islami Afsanwi Adab by Dr Tariq Aiyubi page 68)

Taking his stand further some critics say that when Islam claims to be a complete system of life, it cannot reject literature as it is a fundamental and quintessential part of human society. Literature caters to the aesthetic needs of the human society and Islam appreciates aestheticism.

“Allah loves aesthetic values” goes the Islamic adage. Prof. Nejatullah Siddiquee writes:

Since the movement of Islamic literature was mainly promoted by the religious section for promoting Islamic ideology, the larger secular section of Muslim writers considered the genre only a vehicle for spreading the messages of Islam and hadiths and therefore, thought that Islamic literature will have many limitations on and matter and the use of diction This discouraged them from promoting this genre. If poetry and fiction is legitimized by the Islamic scholars, there remains the risk of using fiction and poetry for militant and extremist purposes.

Though literature has in the past been used for carrying forward political and social ideology, such a literature has not been appreciated widely and only those pieces of such literature have acquired universal acceptance which dealt with universal issues of common interest.  Gorky’s Mother falls in that category of literature.

Therefore, a literature based on any religious ideology like Islami Adab will not get universal acceptance even by Muslim writers because then they will be considered subscribers to a communal ideology. Literature has always remained secular in nature. It has reflected the emotions and problems of the entire humanity. Therefore, the idea of Islamic literature needs to be defined clearly so that its contours become distinct. As of now, the idea of Islamic literature is vague. Therefore, Prof, Nejatullah Siddiquee writers;

 “The movement for the Islamic literature is in its infancy and Urdu Islamic writes are going through the experimental phase. If the idea is clear and the goal is in sight, we can expect that the number of true Islamic litterateurs and the volume of Islamic literature will keep increasing and will impact the society.”(Islam aur funun-e-latifa by Prof Nejatullah Siddiquee)


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